The Islamic State indulged in some of the most ostentatious brutality and sadism of recent decades. If any extremist group deserves the adjective evil, this would be it. But it is precisely our disgust, which ISIS has well earned, that makes it difficult to talk about what the group was and what it meant—and what it may still mean.
The Washington Post was mocked for describing Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as an “austere religious scholar” in the headline of its obituary after the ISIS chief was killed on October 27. (The headline was later changed.) Donald Trump Jr. tweeted that the Post and other mainstream outlets had “harsher criticism for the President of The United States than they do for the leader of ISIS, a known serial rapist and murderer.” He kind of had a point.
By Shadi Hamid